Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Also known as the Festival of Dedication, Hanukkah marks the reclamation of Jews’ religious freedom and emphasizes the value of freedom of religion.
On the first day of Hanukkah, Jews all around the world will light the menorah, a nine-branched candelabrum, with a special blessing. The menorah is lit throughout the eight nights of the holiday in memory of the miracle that is celebrated. Jews also exchange gifts with friends and family, mostly during the first day of Hanukkah. Many will also hold large gatherings throughout the day, with some even going outside to set up a public Hanukkah display.
The Miracle of Hanukkah
The tradition of Hanukkah is rooted in one of the most miraculous events in Jewish history. During the time of the Second Temple, Greeks were able to establish their control over Jerusalem and imposed restrictions on Jews’ religious practice. In 167 BCE, a small band of Jews called the Maccabees, led by Judah Maccabee, embarked on a rebellion against the Greek-Syrians. After the Maccabees’ success, they rededicated the Holy Temple and sought to light the Menorah that was inside.
The Story of the Oil
When they arrived to light the menorah, they discovered that there was only enough purified oil to light the menorah for one night. Miraculously, the oil burned for eight nights until a new supply of oil arrived, giving us the tradition that we carry on today. To commemorate this event, Jews lights one extra candle on the first night and two extra lights on the second night and so on until all eight lights are lit on the eighth and final night.
Celebrating on the First Day of Hanukkah
On the first day of Hanukkah, families gather together to celebrate the miracle and miracle of freedom. They light the menorah during evening prayer, blessing the children and making wishes. Many families also exchange gifts, sing special Hanukkah songs, play dreidel, a game of chance that is based on the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and eat traditional fried foods such as latkes as an emblem of the importance of oil.
The first night of Hanukkah consists of countless special customs and traditions, all of which remind Jewish people of the hard-fought battle that was once fought for religious freedom. Moreover, it is a reminder of the continuous miracle that occurs with each spin of the dreidel and each bite of latkes. On this day, Jews are humbled by the power of faith and are reminded to always express the freedom they have.
The celebration of Hanukkah on the first day denotes a special embodiment of freedom and religious fulfillment that Jews promote throughout the entire eight-day period. It contributes to our ever-growing appreciation of freedom of religion as we continue to commemorate the liberation of religious liberty that was once attained by the Maccabees over two thousand years ago.
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Last update 2023-11-27. Price and product availability may change.